“Can I say a bad word?”
At least he asked permission.
“If you really have to, go in the bathroom and yell it into the toilet,” I offered tentatively, still trying to get a handle on this fine art of parenting.
“What the hell….”
I heard a soft, almost apologetic version of this “bad word.” When Moses emerged from around the corner, I asked him if he felt better.
“Not really,” he replied as he returned to the same task that had frustrated him to the point of release a few minutes earlier.
I was reminded of another experiment involving Elliott, bad words (probably butt and poop…not the big ones, or even the medium ones) and a toilet. I think that strategy worked, at least for a time. With Moses, I wonder.
Karen always got to sit on the big dictionary. I got the phone book, sometimes an unsteady tower of multiple phone books. More than once, I fell to the floor with not even very much fidgeting as my sister sat tall and strong, getting impossibly smarter with every bite.
They knew me long ago, when the future was full of so much, and there seemed such an expanse to today that there were only vague visions and aspirations of a place far in the distance that was bursting with possibility. They knew my soul, and they helped me see mine. They were a few years older, already embedded in their dreams. The years took me; twenty years passed with only Christmas cards and all of the fanfare and falls through two decades.
Earlier this month, they came to see me: a surprise visit during a barn sale at the farm. I could feel them all those years, and they knew it. To them, it was still me. They saw inside my head; they recognized me under the weight of my years of emotions, despite the harsh treatment of figure and hands that so often had spent strings of hours in their dream of a studio sewing Waldorf-inspired dolls from pastel cottons and spun wool.
They turned out of the drive and onto the road back to where they had come from. When I looked up again, they were gone. I wondered, as I tried to pull myself together, what twenty more years might look like, and if I would long for this present day version of me, in spite of the drawn curtains, hip click and tight waistband. I think they would still know it was me, even if I wasn’t sure myself.
Tall as theoretical giants though tiny in stature, these two ladies remain ageless. Only… I did not know this then; how could I have known?
Sometimes maybe we don’t feel better right away. The things we think will help us might not make that much of a difference. Elliott did not get his PhD from sitting on a phone book or even the dictionary, but he was, just as my sister (also a PhD, but just coincidentally…maybe…) and I were many years before, better able to reach the table to eat his potato soup which, in some sort of way, did help him to grow.
If we think yelling something, or even saying it quietly, will help us feel better, as long as there is no harm in the act, perhaps we should just go ahead. Someday, down that long road, there will be something that you didn’t even know you wished for…perhaps in the form of an iced soy latte from one of your indomitably thoughtful grown sons or a surprise visit from two magical artist friends that brought you back a little bit of who you used to be…to really make you feel better.
I love you all more than you could possibly ever know.